Compass

A rusty nail placed near a faithful compass,
will sway it from the truth, and wreck the argosy.

Sir Walter Scott

Antique Compass on Map
(image borrowed from the web)

Toward the end of the 1920’s Winston Churchill’s long, illustrious and prolific life in politics seemed to have come crashing down on him much like the global economy of the Great Depression.
For various reasons, such as his support for issues which the majority were not supporting to perhaps his overt sense of confidence as was often perceived as arrogance, Churchill was not reelected to Parliament and was subjected to spending the next 10 years of his life as an ordinary citizen who simply opted for the serendipitous career of a writer—just another politician, past his prime, all but relegated to the annuals of history.

Yet it was during his time of isolation that Churchill continued to sound those cymbals, of which he felt passionate, to any and all who might give him ear— especially his concern for a wounded German nation licking its devastating wounds following its surrender with dishonor at the end of WWI. Woodrow Wilson’s Treaty of Versailles had sealed Germany’s fate as a neutered nation, cast aside and discarded–left to deal with a devastated economy as well as a lost generation of men not to mention the demoralized sense of national identity. A once proud Prussian people were not only globally disgraced but were now left literally starving and alone.

Such grave and severe consequences extracted from and heaped upon the aggressors following the loss of any war usually results in a dark and dangerous vaccum—sterilization and humiliation begets resentment, which left to fester, breeds a seething hate laced with thoughts of revenge and a hunger to dominate those now perceived as the oppressor. . .all of which Churchill was well aware—long before either his fellow MPs or a war weary world were willing to acknowledge.

History affords us a peek at the end of this story of isolation—but not before millions of people had died.
It is estimated that 60 million people were killed during WWII—yet we don’t how accurate that figure is given the brutality and secrecy of the USSR under Stalin’s regime—some historians put that 60 million much higher as it was reported that the USSR lost 8.5 million soldiers and citizens during WWII—yet it is widely believed however that that number is more like 14 million. . .a staggering number lost from what is now known as modern Russia. Such numbers are nearly impossible for the human mind to comprehend.

Yet Churchill had long sounded the alarm, much to the rolling of eyes from politicians and citizens alike. No one wanted to hear his ominous rhetoric preferring life to that of an ostrich who has buried his head in the sand–fingers stuffed in ears as everyone ran about “la-la-laing” taking the mindset of “what we don’t know, or worse– won’t admit, won’t hurt us”. . .

And it is with this look back at Churchill’s plight, of that lone voice crying in the wilderness, that my thoughts turn today. . .to those lone voices sounding the alarm over the growing threat of a militant muslim nation better known as IS or ISIS.

Did you know that ISIS recently beheaded a Croatian man?
He was a typographer out simply working on mapping things when he was kidnapped.
The news coverage was minimal at best as we’ve obviously got too much going on with our own impending election wannabes. . .

I have shared story after story, as well as interview after interview alike, over the past several months regarding the brutality and hatred of a growing menace in the Middle East that has tentacles which are reaching far and wide. Just click on any news feed to see the latest young person deciding to run away to fight in the caliphate.

Here in my little corner of blogland I sound a lone little bell that most folks don’t like to, or preferably don’t want to, hear. . .with the majority thought being it’s a lot to do about nothing.

The systematic killing of Christians and the slow and agonizing death of the human moral compass. . .is, to me, a very big deal.

Here is a link to a recent interview given by the actor John Rhys-Davis on his take of the loss of this proverbial moral compass

http://www.breitbart.com/big-hollywood/2015/08/12/lord-of-the-rings-actor-blasts-political-correctness-we-have-lost-our-moral-compass/

And as I was reading this morning a posting by one of my favorite Benedictine monks, not that I know many monks, I was struck by a few things Father Hugh stated so soundly in his morning’s post–of which hit me in the head with the thought of “if not you, who?”

“because what we do here in this fleeting world has direct and potentially irreversible consequences for our lives in the next, and eternal, world. Apart from the fact that basic human decency should bid us have concern for our neighbour wherever and whoever he or she might be, our Christian faith demands that we do. What we do, or fail to do, to our neighbor is done to Christ.”

“Our Christian faith demands that we do”. . .demands, as in commands unequivocally, that we do . . .it is that thought which really struck me this morning as most profound. That it is through my Christian faith, a faith which demands and expects of me a certain duty and moral obligation to my fellow man, that I speak for those who are globally persecuted, for those who are suffering for their belief in the Resurrected Son of God–those who are being attacked, tortured, enslaved, heinously murdered all for their faith. . .

You can read Fr Hugh’s full post which is addressing the whys of our prayers seemingly going unanswered:
https://hughosb.wordpress.com/2015/08/14/why/

Father Hugh’s words, as well as the actions of a seemingly beaten politician some 80 years ago who continued with his warnings against an evil menace as the rest of the world preferred distraction, is encouragement enough to continue to sound the alarm. . .Yet more importantly, it is because of the obligation, duty and demand of faith which is the true catalyst–the very real reason that I or you or any believer should not keep silent in the face of such violent tyranny. I am not an alarmist or naysayer but rather one who hears the thundering hooves of darkness galloping ever closer to my world of contentment–just as our leaders, our news networks, our politicians, our entertainment industry and even those who profess to be believers, prefer to be lulled into a state of neutrality and complacency. . .

I will close with a prayer offered to the Nation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt following the invasion of Normandy by the allied forces. . .an amazing thought that a President would implore a nation to join in prayer on a nationally aired radio broadcast—what a novel thought. . .as he spoke these words, there were already thousands of soldiers who lay dead and dying as they fought for their lives to keep the evil darkness of their day at bay. . .

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.

Amen.

Turning point

What most of all hinders heavenly consolation is that you are too slow in turning yourself to prayer.
Thomas a Kempis

DSCN8758
(detail of a pinecone / Julie Cook / 2014)

As a tale-end Baby Boomer and child of the Cold War, the Soviet Union, the USSR, The Federation of the Russian Republic or simply Mother Russia, has always been an uncomfortable shadow over my shoulder, just as it has for most everyone my age and older. The enigma known as Russia, who most graciously hosted the world last February for the Winter Olympics only to turn around and shock us all a few months following with the “invasion” of Ukraine, has remained a conundrum for the free world since the Russian Revolution of 1917 which gave way to birth of Communism.

When I was in high school, which seems to be many lifetimes ago, I had the good fortune of taking a Russian History course—with the most memorable experience being of my introduction to the writings of Alexander Solzhenitsyn. I had the good fortune of reading several of his books. . . One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, The Gulag Archipelago and Cancer Ward.

Now all these many years later I find myself drawn back to the writings and words of Solzhenitsyn, of which I find more prophetic than I had ever imagined.

For those of you unfamiliar with Solzhenitsyn, in a nutshell, he was a Russian soldier (WWII), Gulag prisoner (for nearly 10 years), writer and novelist, historian, Soviet dissident, Nobel Prize recipient and finally, again, Russian citizen.

As a life long member of the Russian Orthodox Church, Solzhenitsyn was guided by a deeply spiritual moral compass. He was a very loud and vocal opponent of Totalitarianism, of which expedited his forced exile from the Soviet Union, yet he could also be equally critical of the West and its obsession with Capitalism, Consumerism and Materialism. All of which reminds me of the chastisement the West often received from Pope John Paul II, as well as Mother Teresa—as perhaps those who have suffered more grievously under the Socialist and ultra Nationalistic Regime of the Nazis and then that of the Communist Soviets, have perhaps a clearer perspective of our often blind view of what we consider to be “the good life”

I am poignantly reminded of Solzhenitsyn, his words and wisdom as well wise counsel and rebukes of those who have witnessed first hand the sinister wiles and atrocities of Evil, particularly during this time of year as it seems the world always appears to crescendo to a heightened sense of madness–just as the holidays come into focus. I don’t know why that is except that as the world seems to not only witness an abundance of joy and goodwill, there seems to be an equal measure of evil and chaos. Perhaps it is because Christians are drawn to the birth of the Savior and Jews begin the celebration of the miracle of light and the rededication to the Second Temple– a time of a tremendous pull of people toward God—as it seems Evil must have its share of the pie by unleashing its part of unimaginable pain and suffering in order to create some sort of sadistic counter balance.

Perhaps our senses are on hyper drive this time of year as we keenly feel the highs of Joy and Wonder along with the bottomless pit of despair and suffering as they each roll in to one. These thoughts reverberate in my mind just as Sydney, Australia was held hostage Monday by a radical Islamist madman leaving 3 individuals, including the gunman, dead. Then on Tuesday, Pakistan witnessed an unimaginable attack on a school leaving 132 children and 9 adult staff members dead all at the hands of the Taliban.

We currently have a menacing cyber attack taking place at Sony as North Korea is suspected to be retaliating to the release of a tongue and cheek movie which sadly mocks an attempted assassination of an, albeit, unhinged world leader. Sometimes I think we, those of us in the West with our often sophomoric entertainment industry, have lost our sense of what is considered off limits or morally wrong when it comes to the exploitation of movie making and entertainment—but I suppose a moral compass would be needed in the first place in order to be reminded of such. . .

We have just marked the tragic anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre as we continue reading headline after headline of local, national and global tragedies. Just as the world tries to come together in some sort of unity marking two very sacred holy times of the year as well as the secular merry making of Santa, Papa Noel and Kris Kringle’s arrival.

In reading Solzhenitsyn’s book Warning to the West, which is actually a brief composite and compendium of the texts to three separate addresses made in the US in the late 1970’s, it is startlingly frightening noting the parallels of then verses now. I am keenly reminded of the relevance of Solzhenitsyn’s words which were uttered almost 40 years ago as they could very well be spoken on the world stage today regarding today’s global state. I will leave you with a few pieces of his excerpted texts in order to ponder and ruminate the relevance and warnings which echo across our prosaic landscape as we wrestle to make sense of the tragic events which continue to unfold before our very eyes this holiday season. . .

“Is it possible or impossible to transmit the experience of those who have suffered to those who have yet to suffer? Can one part of humanity learn from the bitter experience of another or can it not? Is it possible or impossible to warn someone of danger?
How many witnesses have been sent to the West in the last sixty years? How may waves of immigrants? How many millions of persons? They are all here. You meet them every day. You know who they are: if not by their spiritual disorientation, their grief, their melancholy, then you can distinguish them by their accents or their external appearance. Coming from different countries, without consulting with one another, they have brought out exactly the same experience; They tell you exactly the same thing: they warn you of what is now taking place and of what has taken place in the past. But the proud skyscrapers stand on, jut into the sky, and say: It will never happen here. This will never come to us. It is not possible here.”

“In addition to the grave political situation in the world today, we are also witnessing the emergence of a crisis of unknown nature, one completely new, and entirely non-political. We are approaching a major turning point in world history, the the history of civilization. It has already been noted by specialists in various areas. I could compare it only with the turning from the Middle Ages to the modern era, a shift in our civilization. It is a juncture at which settled concepts suddenly become hazy, lose their precise contours, at which our familiar and commonly used words lose their meaning, become empty shells, and methods which have been reliable for many centuries no longer work. It’s the sort of turning point where the hierarchy of values which we have generated, and which we use to determine what is important to us and what causes our hearts to beat is starting to rock and may collapse.
These two crises, the political crisis of today’s world and the oncoming spiritual crisis, are occurring at the same time. It is our generation that will have to confront them. The leadership of your country, which is entering the third century of existence as a nation will perhaps have to bear a burden greater than ever before in American history. Your leaders will need profound intuition, spiritual foresight, high qualities of mind and soul. May God granted that in those times you will have at the helm personalities as great as those who rested your country . . .”

(excepts taken from a speech delivered in New York July 9, 1975, at a luncheon given by the AFL-CIO)